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Nutrition Education: Nutrition Degree Programs Nutritionist Career Schools

Completing a nutrition degree program in order to become a nutritionist is a step towards a long-term career in the health industry. Nutritionists are involved with helping others learn how to improve their lifestyle through diet and exercise, and many offer professional advice on a variety of health issues. A balanced nutrition program is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, but many people are unaware of the impact of diet, exercise, and optimal nutrition in their lives. Nutritionist schools prepare students with the education and tools to help improve the lives of others; many nutritionists are involved with developing specific menus and programs for clients, while specialized fields may include sports nutrition, food service management, or a career in dietetics.

Why Become a Nutritionist?

Nutritionists are experts in the field of diet, exercise, and weight management. They are equipped with the tools and nutrition education to offer advice and counseling, and are often involved with creating healthy menus for a variety of people. They may also be involved with patients in hospitals or nursing care facilities to meet their daily nutrition needs. Nutritionists may work in the public sector to develop literature for health news, or share research and related information on the nutritional content of different foods and recipes. They may also be consulted to oversee large-scale meal planning and food service divisions of cafeterias at university campuses and schools, or in helping with menu development at a health care facility.

Nutritionists are often involved with:

  • Developing and guiding the preparation of special meal plans

  • Helping to treat illnesses by promoting healthy eating habits

  • Recommending dietary changes and options for a poor diet

  • Creating wellness programs for athletes, organizations, or other groups in need of a comprehensive nutrition program

  • Spotlighting trends and changes in the nutrition industry

  • Helping people manage or lose weight

  • Researching developments in the health and medical fields

A nutritionist career is heavily involved with the needs of patients and clients, and requires strong interpersonal and communication skills. In order to become a nutritionist, it is also necessary to be patient and learn how to work with a variety of people with different needs.

What Does a Nutrition Education Offer?

A nutrition education offers multiple opportunities for advancement throughout a nutritionist career, and supplementing studies with training and attending seminars can prove to be very valuable. A nutrition education is comprised of courses based in food science, health, biology, and human anatomy.

Types of Nutrition Degree Programs and Courses Available

A nutrition education program at a typical nutrition school includes the following areas of study:

  • General Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Inorganic and organic Chemistry
  • Clinical Dietetics
  • Advanced Food Science
  • Nutrition Science
  • Management of Food Service Systems
  • Medical Nutrition Therapy
  • Community Nutrition
  • Nutrient Metabolism

If a prospective nutritionist decides to supplement their education with hands-on experience, an internship or work-study program at a local dietetic or wellness center can be very valuable for a nutritionist career.

Nutrition Degree Programs at Nutritionist School

Attending nutrition school and completing a nutrition degree program are necessary in order to become a nutritionist. Nutritionist degree students enroll in a variety of courses that are centered around the biological sciences. While an undergraduate nutrition program covers the basics of a nutrition education, many students pursue continuing studies to obtain a master's degree or certificate. Common nutrition degree programs available at nutritionist school include:

  • Certificate in Sports Nutrition
  • Master of Science in Nutrition and Health
  • Dietetic Internship Programs
  • Masters Degree in Public Health
  • Food and Nutrition management
  • Community Nutrition Research and Education

Skills Needed for a Nutritionist Career

A successful nutritionist career requires ongoing independent research, and learning about the needs of the community that the nutritionist is practicing in. The most common skills needed include:

  • Strong interpersonal and relationship management skills
  • Attention to detail, and ability to understand scientific concepts
  • Understanding how to work with a variety of people and backgrounds
  • Independent thinking to formulate various dietary programs
  • Thorough understanding of national food guidelines and recommendations
  • Learning how to assess and determine patients’ needs
  • Working with health care professionals and doctors
  • Understanding the needs of specific health care industries

A nutritionist career may also lead to opening up an independent practice, and many nutritionists and dieticians turn to consulting as their own business. Here they are involved with offering advice on diet-related concerns and performing nutrition screenings.

Nutrition Degree Requirements, Training, and Options after Nutrition School

An undergraduate nutrition education program is the basis for a variety of nutritionist career opportunities, and attending nutritionist school is the first step. Many programs are part of the health and sciences department of colleges and universities, and some may also include an internship or work-study for experience. Certification programs allow students to specialize in their field, and only 31 states require licensure while 14 require certification. General requirements to become a Registered Dietician vary by state, and in most cases, the individual is required to pass an exam in addition to the nutrition degree requirements.

How are Nutrition Degree Programs Accredited?

The American Dietetic Association (ADA) is responsible for accrediting nutrition degree programs, and approximately 227 bachelor's and master's degree programs were approved the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE) in 2004. In addition to completing the nutrition degree requirements, students are required to complete 900 hours of supervised practice, and must continue 75 credit hours in continuing education every 5 years in order to maintain registered dietitian status.

Employment Prospects with a Nutritionist Career

Choosing to become a nutritionist offers many options for a successful nutritionist career. While a nutritionist degree offers years of educational experience, there are a variety of ongoing educational courses and programs that equip graduates of nutritionist school with additional opportunities. Graduates may continue to study in the field of medicine, research, and nutrition program counseling.

Job prospects look promising, and employment of nutritionists and related positions is expected to grow faster than average through 2014. More people are turning to nutritionists and diet counselors for expert advice, and public interest in healthy eating and lifestyles is steadily increasing. Hospitals, businesses, and large communities are continually looking for qualified health care practitioners to help develop wellness and diet programs, and a nutritionist career can offer benefits to a variety of sectors.

Median annual earnings for nutritionists were $43,630 in 2004. Related occupations include:

  • Food service managers

  • Registered nurses

  • Health educators

  • Specialized dieticians

  • Sports and athlete nutritionists


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